GO DOWN YOU BROKEN OLD MAN
I wrote this cira 1970 at the age of 18. It probably had as much to do with education as with the notion in the song that freedom stolen from a prisoner is not automatically returned at the end of the sentence.
I believe I was arguing against the defeatism suffered by some when the struggle for justice is stymied. As Howard Zinn once said, the changes that we effect are not always visible in the context of our own lives, at least not entirely, as history does not take place within the borders of our own lives.
I was thinking too of my father’s pessimism. A longtime communist, he was nevertheless bitter, something that my older brother, from whom he was estranged, also suffered from. Both often said I was too optimistic, too naive.
Twilight has blanketed old country jail
The prisoners ain’t sleeping, they’re quietly waiting
And counting the days till the door is swung wide
And summertime welcomes them home
Go down you broken old shell of a man
Down where the young river rolls
The cage that has sprung you has robbed you of sight
And you are still caught in the night
To keep all our children from going to crime
We’ll lock them in schoolrooms and structure their time
And we’ll give them their freedom when lessons are learned
So life will not lead them astray
OMITTED LYRICS FROM THIS RECORDING
Note: In the original I had more verses, but then somehow they didn’t suit work, and so I deleted them…though I still have the old recording around here somewhere. In the beginning I beleive I was writing an anti-racism song referencing anti-Black and Native American discrimination.
A black, broken prisoner lies lifeless and cold
He slept with a white girl just 10 years ago
But no-one condemns the white settler mn
Who brought his religion then took all the land.
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